Illamasqua, Goth Makeup For Girls And Boys
When black lipstick-clad models walked down YSL’s Fall runway last February, the fashion and beauty pack took momentary pause. Initial sentiments of “goth? really?” were quickly followed by “what is that lipstick and when/where can I buy it?!” Opaque pigments and sheer glosses in varying shades of the macabre went into production shortly thereafter, echoing the somber mood and tone of our economy. According to makeup artist Alex Box, however, stylemakers’ collective re-embrace of all things soul-torturing have nothing to do with the dismal dollar. “People want to explore their alter egos a little bit more, right now. They’re going darker, and they want a little goth back in their life,” she surmises. For the seasoned face-painter (Box is responsible for translating Gareth Pugh’s architectural runway vision into makeup form), there was a hole in the market that needed filling. And fill it she has, as the artistic director of the new, unisex makeup line Illamasqua . Box and her co-conspirators (including one Dave Vanian from the Damned ) are bringing the moody blues back in a full spectrum of high-quality colors for both men and women, with four collections available exclusively at Selfridges in London. Style.com caught up with Box to talk about lip gloss as black as tar and how she has managed to skirt the line between daywear and clown makeup.
How did the whole idea for Illamasqua start?
I did an interview in the Guardian about how I was this symbol for a new combination of goth and glamour. Simultaneously, Julian [Kynaston, of the advertising and branding company Propaganda] wanted to design a makeup range that had a story, that had a life to it, that could attract the counterculture from rockabillies to punks to burlesque. His wife randomly saw the interview and he contacted me and that was it.
What has the transition been like for you going from makeup artist to artistic director?
It’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I want green nail polish and they make it! My whole life I’ve wanted to celebrate individuality, and that’s reflected in the line. There are no boundaries with the makeup. You can use the lip products on your body, the eye products on your lips. If you give people boundaries, they stay within them; if you don’t, they have more freedom.
How would you say you’ve exercised this freedom, by which I mean what are the most unique products in the line?
I absolutely love our white liquid foundation. It’s a very sheer, lightweight white so you can look porcelain, not like a clown. We actually have four shades of white—I mean, we’re really going for it. We also have a black lip gloss that’s so thick it’s like tar.
Do you think there’s really a market for people who want to put tar on their lips?
If you present something to somebody, they’re going to try it. But if it doesn’t exist, they can’t try it. For example, I’ve never seen a green lip gloss. You’ve got to make something that’s not on the market or else you’re gonna shoot yourself in the foot. We just let our imaginations run wild.
How did Dave Vanian get involved?
Julian is a very big fan of the Damned and so am I. Dave is an innovator and was one of the first punk stars to wear makeup. He’s a great adviser on style as he’s incredibly in tune with creating a look—he was the first goth, really. He will just come in and sit with me and talk about life—when life crosses with art and when art crosses with fashion. And it’s great to have someone who is a sounding board like that.
What about the unisex factor? Do you see men’s makeup becoming increasingly popular anytime soon?
I do, but I think that the way that it’s currently marketed is so patronizing. The young guys now are so much more open to this kind of image—they don’t feel as strongly as older people about having a stereotypical male look. So they’re more open to swapping clothes with girls. And a lot of them are more interested in making a statement than making themselves look desirable.